Therapy

I sit across from her. She seems more tense than usual. I feel calm. Still, on the inside, steel. Metallic. I can taste it on my tongue. This is not how it’s meant to be. I am paying her. She is meant to be helping me. I was afraid. I am afraid. I thought she might solve it. Remove it. Excise it. Instead I have found a stillness inside my fear yet again. I am out of options.

She hasn’t solved it.

So here we are. She is nervous with failure. I am calm because I am certain. My fear is rational. Even though she says the thing I am afraid of does not exist.

I am making her nervous. She is wiping her hands on the sides of the chair. It doesn’t mark but those are some sweaty palms. I don’t revel in it. I observe it. I am indifferent except to the idea that perhaps now she will finally agree that my fear is rational, grounded. I look at her. I talk.

I know by the end of the appointment there will be beads of sweat on her forehead. There will be the scent of sweat in the room. Human sweat mingled with her scent. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, that scent. Maybe she has a little bottle in her bag. Maybe she keeps it in her bathroom cupboard in the house she lives in. On her own. She has a sister but no one else, their mother died when they were in their twenties.

How do I know that? Pictures on the desk. Odd things she lets slip, the questions she asks of me. Do I have a sister? Yes, estranged. Can we explore that? I haven’t seen her for a hundred years. She smiles at the things I come out with. The little nuances around time that give the game away. How much of what I say is true? I am not being honest even with myself. It’s one of the reasons she can’t help me.

The accusation of dishonesty hangs in the air.

If I refuse to help myself, she can’t help me. My flippancy reflects my insecurity. Can we explore that. Probably not. I do the sums in my head. It is definitely a hundred years since I spoke to my sister.

I look at the doctor and keep talking. Perhaps the good doctor will end up in some nursing home that is poorly managed where the residents are all malnourished. Perhaps she won’t end up there at all. Perhaps today is her last day on the planet. It has started the same way every other day has started. A rushed breakfast, a quick shower, make up applied in the car. Coats struggled into and out of, hung up on the coat stand.

The desk is neat and orderly. The house is neat and orderly. Her mind is neat and orderly. Nonetheless perhaps her day will end early, before dinner.

I am not cured of my phobia. I am still afraid. I make her more nervous every visit. I am no longer worth the money. She doesn’t remember a case this difficult before. I hear her words without really reacting. I just talk. She wants to consult a colleague. Perhaps she can palm me off to him. She does not say that but I know. I can smell the sweat. It fills the room. The smell.

She shifts in her chair. She always does that at the half an hour mark. I notice it every time. She is discomforted. I talk without saying anything of merit, of value.

I have this fear. Irrational. A fear of something that does not even exist. I have read a lot of books, sat across from a lot of therapists. This one, her smell. I am not good with perfumes. I don’t know what that scent is.

I keep talking. Talking. Talking. She keeps not listening. Now she is looking at the clock. Shifting in her chair. Again. For a moment I see it, she wants to be rid of me, out of the room. Maybe she will tell her receptionist to ensure that there won’t be time for another appointment. Maybe this will be our last time together. Maybe there is just 15 minutes more before I am cast out into the street once again. Alone to deal with my fears.

I can see it in her eyes. She can’t help me anymore. I am to be abandoned again. I don’t want it to be her choice. I want it to be mine. The scent of her sweat fills the room. Is she going to say it to my face. Tell me this is the last time. Consult a colleague. I am desperate. I need help. What is it that she doesn’t understand? My fear is rational, real.

I stop talking. Ready to listen. Ready to hear the words again. The same words. She tells me I am afraid of something that does not exist. That I don’t need to worry. She thinks really I am just afraid of myself. She says it, those words, you are afraid of yourself.

There is.

I grant you.

Some truth in that.

Slow thoughts play out in front of my eyes.

I stand up. Ready to leave.

She stands up across from me. We are of equal height. She reaches out her hand.

I grip it, trying to grip it for just the right amount of time at just the right amount of strength. To ensure there is no suspicion to the very end.

Our eyes meet. I look at her. I know these will be my final words to her.

‘Vampires are real’ I say, ‘and I am scared.’

I snap her neck and drain the body.

I tell myself its not my fault. She should have listened. Its not like I didn’t tell her I was a monster. Its not like I didn’t warn her. She should have better security.

I get my coat and leave.

The man in the van

It was dark. And cold. I clutched my coat around me. I walked in the dappled fug of the street lights.

The van slowed down as it drove past me. I focussed on staying warm. Ignoring it. It went past. I turned into the side street. Hoping.

Yet somehow knowing.

I had been here before. It only had to go right at the bottom of the other street, right again and it would meet me where that street intersects with this side street.

I walked on. I could hear footsteps behind me but I daren’t look. They might help. They might not. I walked slowly.

I saw its headlights just as I got to the junction. The van turned into the street. It slowed down. It was right behind me. Its head lights following me. Tracking me.

There were houses on this street. I could knock on a door, ask for help. Say what. There’s a man in a van following me. I’m not sure what they would do.

He would simply drive away anyhow. Wait for me in the next street. My husband was at home but I could hardly call him.

I could still hear the footsteps behind me, perhaps they would help. Perhaps there was safety there.

Perhaps not.

I walked. He drove. Quietly, slowly behind me. I walked just in the beam of his headlights. Deliberately. I felt in my coat for my gloves. I tried to forget the inevitable.

I could no longer hear the footsteps behind me. They must have turned up the alley. It occurred to me then that I should have done that. Taken the long way home. The safe way home.

Then he said something. It barely registered. Something like, ‘come here love’ perhaps.

I was momentarily rooted to the spot. I turned to look at him but was blinded by the lights. I felt my feet approaching the van even though I didn’t really want to. There was an inevitability to it.

What was I doing?

I saw his face. Looked into his eyes. I wanted to see kindness. It was not in the gaze that met mine.

It was quick. The neck was broken, the blood drained from the body in a matter of seconds.

I reached in and switched off the vehicle and took the keys. A trophy. The others said I shouldn’t. It was too risky,  but had they read the conviction rates.

I told myself it wasn’t my fault.

He should not have been driving alone at night. He should not have driven in the vicinity of a woman. He had most certainly approached me. He was not wearing a scarf. In fact his shirt did not even have a collar. What century was he living in?

I found it hard to explain why I did not want dinner again. I hid the keys in a pot with all the other keys.

I tell myself one day I will stop. But I know that I will not.

The Draytons

Edward Drayton. He stared at the name on the file.  Another one. This job never got any easier. Edward Drayton had no doubt taken his wife’s name after marriage. Not unusual in these parts. Drayton was an old name, one from the time when Europeans first came here.

He breathed in. Sighed it out. Prepared himself. He knew what was coming. He buzzed Drayton in.

Drayton came in, sat down. Drayton was the usual. Embarrassed. Agitated. Desperate.

Drayton started speaking almost straight away, ‘Nobody in my wife’s family has ever died.’

Even before Drayton said it, he recognised the look on that face. His heart sank. It was common in these parts. Locals called it the vamps.

‘Nobody?’ he said calmly.

He knew Drayton had chosen him as a therapist because he was from out of town. Deliberately chosen him, no doubt Drayton had done some research. Someone with no connection to the family that he knew of, but there were so very many Draytons. How could anyone be sure?

His surname was different, but he had taken his wife’s name on marriage too. He had tried to distance himself from the stories. Drayton had come here, taken a chance, looking for a kindred spirit. Who was he to judge?

‘Well there was Cousin Lola.’ Drayton continued. He remembered cousin Lola, quite sad. He showed no emotion though and Drayton ploughed on.

 ‘Impaled on a fence, but I went there. Wooden fence!’  Drayton said this with finality as if there was only one explanation.

He tried to maintain a professional composure. There was the rest of the family to consider.

‘And they don’t like garlic. I once made a chilli with a lot of garlic for my wife and her sisters and their kids, whole family. They all sat there, barely ate it.’

Drayton was on a roll now. He tried to remain calm, neutral, professional. Even as the saliva was pooling in his mouth.

‘And my wife, sometimes she sleeps during the day and haunts the house at night. She says its menopause.’

‘And she hates silver.’

He wanted to put up a hand and stop it then and there. Drayton was looking for answers but none of the behaviours he described were unusual. Some people preferred gold. Garlic was relatively new in this part of the world when his wife was growing up. Someone died in a random accident on a wooden fence.

He knew the conclusion Drayton wanted to draw. It was sad. Always sad. He prescribed something random, told Drayton to think about it, come back in a week. He wanted to add ‘but only if you see your wife howling at the moon.’ He didn’t. Sarcasm was not professional in these situations. His was a difficult job. He had some sympathy. The women out west were odd sometimes.

He knew as Drayton opened the door to leave, he would have to make that phone call.  

He called his mother. To tell her to call her cousin. To tell her cousin to call her sister. To tell her to call her daughter. To tell her,

‘It’s time to eat your husband.’